Hackney charity Hands Inc founder Eileen Bellot on overcoming the ‘taboo’ of menopause

Eileen Bellot. Picture: Kuba Novak

Eileen Bellot. Picture: Kuba Novak - Credit: Hands Inc

Eileen Bellot launched a menopause group when she realised there were only “horrible pictures of women bowled over with osteoarthritis or other crippling illnesses” when you typed the word into internet search engines.

“People get worried about their bones becoming brittle and turning to ash,” said the 55-year-old from Lower Clapton.

“It’s almost like you are talking about the big C. Most women talk about insomnia, night sweats and hot flushes, but there’s not much looking at the menopause in its holistic sense. If women aren’t aware of the symptoms like memory loss they often think the worst – some women think they have early onset dementia.”

She wanted to normalise “a taboo subject” so women don’t feel they are alone. Since launching the Menopause Project five years ago, she has taught that there are “lots of positives” – and the women she has helped say they feel less anxious.

Eileen has even written a play about the menopause: it’s the topic she is most passionate about.

But it’s just one branch of the holistic therapy offered by her charity Hands Inc, whose HQ is in Leswin Road, Stoke Newington.

After attending Southwold Primary and Skinners School for Girls Eileen trained in fashion design. She had her own bridal wear, children’s wear and menswear companies before teaching art and design. She then founded Hands Inc in 2001 after training as a masseur.

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“I realised teaching is a two-way exchange and that I like working with people and inspiring them to be the best they can be,” she said.

“People ask me: ‘How did you go from fashion to massage?’

“But for me it was a natural progression. I was working with the outside of people and then I started working with their innards.”

She continued: “I thought if I got some therapists together and created a charity we might have more of an impact than one person.

“At the time complementary therapies were for those who had means and were thought of as pampering, but I thought they should be accessible to all because there are so many benefits.

“Rather than waiting for something to go wrong, we ask: ‘What can I do to inspire my well being?’”